Tuesday, September 25, 2018
News Roundup

Pinellas commissioners approve extra $6 million for sheriff's office

CLEARWATER — Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri will receive an extra $6 million from the county's general fund next year to pay his deputies more.

In a budget workshop Thursday, county commissioners agreed to set aside that amount from a projected $14 million cushion in next year's budget. Gualtieri had asked for $20.6 million over the target budget the county gave him, but he told commissioners last month he could get by with $6 million to finish a new pay plan that awards raises based on experience. The sheriff has said higher salaries will help him retain and attract top talent by being more competitive with surrounding agencies.

Commissioner Karen Seel supported the move but warned the pay plan would commit future commissions to higher costs in future years, which could be problematic during another recession. Commissioner Pat Gerard agreed but noted that some governments suspended the step plans during the last downturn.

"I think the caution is warranted, but I think we are being cautious," Commissioner Ken Welch said.

Afterward, Gualtieri said the plan will cost less than giving annual 3 percent cost-of-living raises. He said the agency can freeze the annual increase in tough economic times by exercising an "economic hardship" clause.

"We're doing this in a cautious and fiscally responsible way that solves the problem, keeps us competitive, accomplishes all the goals, but at the same time is mindful of the fiscal limits," he said.

Commissioners generally went along with the recommendations from County Administrator Mark Woodard based on priorities commissioners have highlighted in recent weeks. Woodard and staff are building the budget with the intention of keeping the county millage rates the same and maintaining reserves at 15 percent of the general revenue.

Other big-ticket requests that garnered approval are $2 million for software to manage the county's assets; $1.6 million for a Microsoft licensing agreement; and $965,000 for a pilot program to develop best practices to treat frequent users of the county's behavioral health services.

The budget will also accommodate requests from some of the constitutional officers. Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark will get nearly $700,000 for high-speed ballot scanners, electronic poll books and other new voting technology.

There's good news for arts advocates, too. Creative Pinellas, the county's designated arts agency, will receive $200,000 to promote the arts and provide minigrants to artists. The agency will augment the funding with $100,000 from its reserves.

Commissioners also agreed to $105,000 to raise the minimum wage for employees who work under the county administrator; $99,250 to renovate a portion of Clearview Elementary for the Florida Dream Center to use as a home base for its Adopt-A-Block program in Lealman; and $70,000 for youth sports organizations such as the Seminole Youth Athletic League Association and the Cross Bayou Little League to repair and maintain fields and facilities.

The first public hearing on the budget is set for Sept. 10.

Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.

Comments
Buccaneers AfterMath: Tampa Bay’s defense is raising red flags

Buccaneers AfterMath: Tampa Bay’s defense is raising red flags

You might have walked away from the game Monday night feeling pretty good about your Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Sure, the first half was about as ugly as it gets. After the Steelers returned Ryan Fitzpatrick’s third interception for a touchdown late...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
For starters: Rays vs. Yankees, with Faria on the hill

For starters: Rays vs. Yankees, with Faria on the hill

UPDATE, 5:47: Expect LHP Jalen Beeks to pitch tonight after Faria.UPDATE, 5;45: Longtime Rays minor-league pitching guru Dick Bosman to retire, has been with organization since 2001. Pitched parts of 11 seasons in majors, threw no-hitter for Indians ...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Chilling 911 call from shooting victim’s son lays out horrors of Pasco murder-suicide

Chilling 911 call from shooting victim’s son lays out horrors of Pasco murder-suicide

Shortly after midnight Monday, Pasco County 911 dispatchers received a chilling call."My mom is shot," said the wavering voice of a young man. "My mom was shot."Though not identified, deputies say 14-year-old Mark Price had run out of his house on 1...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
A doctor was sued for malpractice. He tried to fight it. It cost him nearly everything.

A doctor was sued for malpractice. He tried to fight it. It cost him nearly everything.

Scott Plantz remembers the exact date he received notice he was being sued for medical malpractice.His wife, Cynna, gave birth to their only child that day in 2009. They had spent five years and more than $100,000 on in vitro fertilizations to have H...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Commute times reach nearly half an hour, note backers of tax hike for transportation

Commute times reach nearly half an hour, note backers of tax hike for transportation

TAMPA — Something to ponder the next time you’re stuck on Dale Mabry Highway during rush hour: The average commute for people in Hillsborough County now pushes half an hour.U.S. Census Bureau data released this month shows a 28.3 minute average commu...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Markeis McGlockton’s autopsy shows he turned away from shooter

Markeis McGlockton’s autopsy shows he turned away from shooter

The autopsy for Markeis McGlockton, who was killed in a shooting that set off a debate about Florida’s stand your ground law, shows the bullet entered his body at an angle and tore through his heart and both lungs.The Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner’...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Eduardo A. Encina joins the Times to cover the Bucs

Eduardo A. Encina joins the Times to cover the Bucs

ST. PETERSBURG — Eduardo A. Encina, an award-winning sportswriter with an extensive background covering Tampa Bay sports, is returning to the Times to cover the Bucs.Encina will join Rick Stroud, Thomas Bassinger and columnists Tom Jones and Ma...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Trump attacks second Kavanaugh accuser, saying she 'has nothing' and was 'totally inebriated'

Trump attacks second Kavanaugh accuser, saying she 'has nothing' and was 'totally inebriated'

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday attacked the second woman who has accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, dismissing her account because she was "totally inebriated and all messed up," and accused Democrats of pla...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa gunshot victim dies after he’s dropped off at hospital, police say

Tampa gunshot victim dies after he’s dropped off at hospital, police say

Times staffTAMPA — A man suffering from gunshot wounds died at a Tampa hospital after someone dropped him off there Tuesday afternoon, police said.Tampa police responded to a call about gunshots just after noon near the intersection of E Hillsborough...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rep. Charlie Crist urges federal consumer watchdog to investigate Marlin Financial

Rep. Charlie Crist urges federal consumer watchdog to investigate Marlin Financial

Another public official has set his sights on Marlin Financial. In a letter Tuesday, Rep. Charlie Crist urged the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to investigate the online auto lender, saying he was "disturbed" by a recent Tampa ...
Updated: 1 hour ago